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Energy as a commons? With paradigms new markets and opportunities arising with digitalising in the energy sector and democratising means of production and distribution, how can regulation be designed in such a way that energy systems these markets are equitable and ensure participation across society?

The committee on regional development in Heidelberg will focus on the power shift from centralised to decentralised distribution systems. With EU citizens' growing awareness of environmental issues, new technological developments and smart power grids on the horizon, a shift towards a distributed system that includes consumers and turns them into co-producers is a possible future for Europe's energy union. There are many challenges that have to be met before such a transfer can take place: The liberalisation of the energy market is still not fully implemented and little investments are in place to fund distributed systems. Many citizens seem to be "energy illiterate". Moreover, the data recorded through power grids raises questions concerning data storage and protection. Finally, there is currently no strategy on who would regulate a European-wide power grid and how. To overcome these obstacles and ensure a bright future for distributed systems in the energy union is what REGI will cover in committee work and resolution.

The Past: Distributing energy the traditional way

  • The traditional power grid
  • production - transmission - distribution - consumer
  • Electricity takes over other forms of energy (electric cars etc.)
  • Russia-EU relations etc. increase uncertainty
  • Current European Energy facilities will have to be modernised soon
  • Energy trading taking over
  • More and more people are installing solar panels on their own

The Future: Smart grids - an outlook to what is possible

The economic dimension

  • more efficiency through smart grids
  • flexibility through information of residential energy use
  • intelligent and flexible grids instead of linear distribution

The societal dimension

  • consumers become co-producers
  • "energy literacy" goes up
  • decentralisation through empowerment of citizens

The technological dimension

  • both electricity and information are exchanged
  • ensuring interoperability in smart power grids
  • reporting energy usage to increase efficiency

The environmental dimension

  • pushing decarbonisation
  • Consumers more likely to install renewable sources of energy (e.g. solar panels)
  • consumers have a greater influence on the amount of renewable energy used in Europe

The Present: Obstacles to be addressed

The economic dimension

  • most systems still centralised
  • little investments into smart grid projects
  • energy market rules need to be newly defined
  • the roles of Distribution System Operators (DSOs) and Transmission System Operators (TSOs) need to be alternated and defined
  • energy markets are often unpredictable
  • how can affordable energy prices for consumers be ensured?
  • only large infrastructure programmes are funded at the moment

The societal dimension

  • Energy illiteracy: In the current system, the user is a passive consumer, always dependent on utility companies, ignorant of how the energy system works
  • currently costs outweigh benefits
  • liberalisation of the energy market still ongoing
  • will things be regulated on a national or transnational (European) level? (see energy meters)
  • how are consumers motivated to become co-producers of energy?
  • how is knowledge about grid possibilities spread to citizens?
  • how can the public be involved in large-scale projects?

The technological dimension

  • data protection: new risks for consumers as energy usage data is recorded
  • security: grid system open to cyber attacks that could disable areas of the grid?
  • reliability: is the grid going to be reliable at all times?
  • data storage: huge sums of data will be recorded
  • are microgrids a possibility?

The environmental dimension

  • do renewable means of energy really push smart grids?

The Actors: Who is involved

  • EU Commission & DG on Energy
  • Member States’ energy ministries and distribution systems
  • Connecting Europe Facility
  • EU citizens as “prosumers”

Measures in Place: What has been done

Questions to be answered: What are sources of knowledge EU citizens to look into at the moment? What are microgrids and how do they work?

Clean Energy Package


The European Strategic Energy Technology Plan (SET-Plan) aims to accelerate the development and deployment of low-carbon technologies. It seeks to improve new technologies and bring down costs by coordinating national research efforts and helping to finance projects.


The Trans-European Energy Networks (TEN-E) – are programmes set up by the EU for the implementation of the European Single Market. The Trans-European Networks aim at "linking island, landlocked and peripheral regions with the central regions of the community”.

A final outlook

Links for further Research


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